Tag Archives: equality

Pope Francis: End Sexism in the Church & Ordain Women

To mark the World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination today, I’ve posted this letter to Pope Francis. I’ve written it over the last few weeks to submit as part of the May 22 actions on the twentieth anniversary of Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter denying women equality in the Church. I encourage all to submit their own letters of support using the information provided by Women’s Ordination Worldwide

Dear Pope Francis,

From an early age, I’ve known of my call. My parents tell me that attending Mass calmed me as a young child, when I wasn’t running to the altar to participate that is. I became an altar server at 10 and served through my college years as frequently as possible. By high school I was coordinating liturgies, large and small, at my local parish and engaged in several other ministries, sometimes as the youngest person by decades. The church was a second home and a safe space, able to calm me through my hardest moments of adolescence. In a word, being around the parish and being among the people was ‘natural.’

At 13, a priest asked me if priesthood was a life that might interest me given my involvement in the life of our parish, and the life of the People of God. I’ve seriously discerned this question, is God calling me to ordination, for more than a decade. Over time, my yearning to lead people in our liturgies or be present to them in life’s most profound, daily moments of suffering and celebration grew. Throughout college, each moment of reflection, each liturgy, each protest for justice, and each tender encounter with another person was a coal added to this fire burning within me. I received a degree with honors in theology from The Catholic University of America as a first step to making my desire to minister a reality.

I wanted to answer God’s call. I wanted to say ‘yes’ to being a priest. I wanted, more than anything, to try and explain to those on the margins the immense love of God that I have long known. I wanted to do all this as a priest.

And yet, I could never say ‘yes.’ The more secure this call became, the more I sensed I could never answer it. It is the most painful struggle I’ve known, for while being in ministerial leadership is natural to me and noted by many, I cannot enter the priesthood. I could not discover the obstacle to my entering seminary at first, for I had both the right equipment and was attracted to the right gender according to institutional guidelines.

Now, the obstacle is clear: the Catholic Church institutionally refuses to recognize in full the dignity of every person, especially women.

For the last few years, I have ministered on the Church’s margins among the gay and transgender community and spent many hours speaking with people about the necessary renewal our Church needs. At one such conference, I found myself at a table with seven women discussing how the Church can uproot the current power dynamics structured against women. Three of the seven shared their experiences of feeling called to ordained ministry and priesthood. In their stories, I saw my own journey of discernment and it became clear that I could not, in good conscience, become ordained while so many were denied access to serve in ministry due to their gender or sexual orientation.

As it was well known I was considering priesthood, I’ve spent a good deal of time at vocation events and speaking with vocation directors. The key point always stressed was the increasing shortage of priests our Church is facing. Relatedly, a wise friend of mine, an older woman as so many of my mentors and spiritual companions have been, once told me that the Church must die before it can rise to new life. Pope Francis, I believe the Church’s current priesthood is dying by the persistent failure of our leaders to welcome more fully all those God is calling to ordained ministry and spiritual leadership. Help raise it into new, renewed life and open up priestly ministry to all God’s people!

Yet, the priest shortage is not the main reason to ordain women. As the Body of Christ, we need each person’s contributions to most fully incarnate God’s kingdom. Denying women their divinely ordained place in our churches harms the Church’s much needed voice against the many injustices which disproportionately harm women, and to which women are often the most capable agents for social change. There are so many people who know they are called by God to lead our Church in renewal and into its finest age as a mediator of God’s love and grace for all.  Without all and by denying some, we as the Church, in so many ways, severely wounded in our consistent defense of life and dignity.

Lastly, in perpetuating an exclusionary vision of ministry, the Church commits a sin of its own making by denying women their full dignity. The Church perpetuates the sin of sexism that it has condemned in many other contexts. This sin’s structural occupation of our community causes the personal corruption of too many Catholics’ understandings about God, Christian anthropology, ecclesiology, etc. Ordaining women and restoring them to rightful positions of leadership, for they were the ones who remained at the Cross while Jesus lay dying and the men fled, is a necessary action by which the Church can begin to truly undermine sexism in our religious community and in our world.

Pope Francis: I implore you to end the prohibitions against women’s ministry, ordained and otherwise, in our Church. Until that moment when all are welcomed to the Church as the person God created them to be and able to minister in the manner in which God calls them, I refuse to leave the Church’s margins for ordination.

In Christ’s peace,

Bob Shine

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Why Marriage Equality Opponents are Our Hope!

Growing up in Massachusetts, gay marriage was legalized and done with by the time I reached high school. Eight years later, I continually wonder how these debates over marriage equality persist – and how liberty and justice for all keeps losing at polling places nationwide.

Yet, in a way I find the strength of those opposing marriage equality wonderful. Their numbers signal something positive for the equality community. The intense focus on marriage rights, the millions (billions at some point?) spent on negative advertising, the persistent need of religious leaders to denounce marriage equality as often as the media permits really signals victory for LGBTQ and ally advocates.

We won acceptance.

Ten years ago, marriage equality advocates targeted homosexuality itself – it was a disease, it was a sin, it was abnormal. Catholic bishops confidently employed the language of “intrinsically disordered” as the reason against gay marriage. At varying levels in religious communities and amongst those opposing gay rights, the “gays” themselves warranted rejection generally, not necessarily just in marriage.

No doubt, these tactics still find a home in the debate over marriage equality today. No doubt, radicalized pastors call for gay concentration camps or camps to “cure” your teen. No doubt, numerous Catholic bishops and conservative factions in Christianity talk of sins a “homosexual lifestyle” brings out, without basis in Scripture or in science. Most important though, the popular salience of tactics like these wallows each day.

Now messaging from anti-equality campaigns focuses on the harm done to children with two moms or two dads rooted in junk science and the created narrative about “traditional marriage as its always been” (conveniently forgetting the polygamous, economically-driven, or otherwise varied forms marriage has taken across the world throughout history).

The hope I speak of ultimately is this: anti-equality advocates cannot attack homosexuality itself anymore.

They recognize the battle over homosexuality as sinful or disordered is lost in the American collective conscience and there will be no regression. They retreat to the smaller field of gay marriage, seeking to stem the tide of gay rights in the smaller ways they can. Precisely due to the huge defeat over acceptance of homosexuality, the stakes for them become so grandiose in the marriage equality debate.

Marriage equality opponents will continue spending massive time and treasure on anti-equality campaigns when ballot initiatives emerge as a final hope that their hateful pronouncements, already rejected once, maintain a semblance of credibility.

For those of us struggling in this new civil rights endeavor, as discouraging as the loses and continued narrow-mindedness can be on marriage equality, we must keep present the hope that the tremendous victory of accepting sexual orientations in their diversity already exists in America.

If this were not the case, the anti-equality groups would not be pressing so hard.

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